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Boehner’s New Proposal Could Produce Greatest Increase In Poverty And Hardship Of Any Law In Modern U.S. History

House Speaker John Boehner’s new budget proposal would require deep cuts in the years immediately ahead in Social Security and Medicare benefits for current retirees, the repeal of health reform’s coverage expansions, or wholesale evisceration of basic assistance programs for vulnerable Americans.

The plan is, thus, tantamount to a form of “class warfare.” If enacted, it could well produce the greatest increase in poverty and hardship produced by any law in modern U.S. history.

This may sound hyperbolic, but it is not. The mathematics are inexorable.

The Boehner plan calls for large cuts in discretionary programs of $1.2 trillion over the next ten years, and it then requires additional cuts that are large enough to produce another $1.8 trillion in savings to be enacted by the end of the year as a condition for raising the debt ceiling again at that time.

The Boehner plan contains no tax increases. The entire $1.8 trillion would come from budget cuts.

Because the first round of cuts will hit discretionary programs hard — through austere discretionary caps that Congress will struggle to meet — discretionary cuts will largely or entirely be off the table when it comes to achieving the further $1.8 trillion in budget reductions.

As a result, virtually all of that $1.8 trillion would come from entitlement programs. They would have to be cut more than $1.5 trillion in order to produce sufficient interest savings to achieve $1.8 trillion in total savings.

To secure $1.5 trillion in entitlement savings over the next ten years would require draconian policy changes. Policymakers would essentially have three choices: 1) cut Social Security and Medicare benefits heavily for current retirees, something that all budget plans from both parties (including House Budget Committee Chairman Paul Ryan’s plan) have ruled out; 2) repeal the Affordable Care Act’s coverage expansions while retaining its measures that cut Medicare payments and raise tax revenues, even though Republicans seek to repeal many of those measures as well; or 3) eviscerate the safety net for low-income children, parents, senior citizens, and people with disabilities. There is no other plausible way to get $1.5 trillion in entitlement cuts in the next ten years.

The evidence for this conclusion is abundant.

The “Gang of Six” plan, with its very tough and controversial entitlement cuts, contains total entitlement reductions of $640 to $760 billion over the next ten years not counting Social Security, and $755 billion to $875 billion including Social Security. (That’s before netting out $300 billion in entitlement costs that the plan includes for a permanent fix to the scheduled cuts in Medicare physician payments that Congress regularly cancels; with these costs netted out, the Gang of Six entitlement savings come to $455 to $575 billion.)

The budget deal between President Obama and Speaker Boehner that fell apart last Friday, which included cuts in Social Security cost-of-living adjustments and Medicare benefits as well as an increase in the Medicare eligibility age, contained total entitlement cuts of $650 billion (under the last Obama offer) to $700 billion (under the last Boehner offer).

The Ryan budget that the House passed in April contained no savings in Social Security over the next ten years and $279 billion in Medicare cuts.

To be sure, the House-passed Ryan budget included much larger overall entitlement cuts over the next 10 years. But that was largely because it eviscerated the safety net and repealed health reform’s coverage expansions. The Ryan plan included cuts in Medicaid and health reform of a remarkable $2.2 trillion, from severely slashing Medicaid and killing health reform’s coverage expansions. The Ryan plan also included stunning cuts of $127 billion in the SNAP program (formerly known as food stamps) and $126 billion in Pell Grants and other student financial assistance.

That House Republicans would likely seek to reach the Boehner budget’s $1.8 trillion target in substantial part by cutting programs for the poorest and most vulnerable Americans is given strong credence by the “Cut, Cap, and Balance” bill that the House recently approved. That bill would establish global spending caps and enforce them with across-the-board budget cuts —exempting Medicare and Social Security from the across-the-board cuts while subjecting programs for the poor to the across-the-board axe.

This would turn a quarter century of bipartisan budget legislation on its head; starting with the 1985 Gramm-Rudman-Hollings law, all federal laws of the last 26 years that have set budget targets enforced by across-the-board cuts have exempted the core assistance programs for the poor from those cuts while including Medicare among programs subject to the cuts. This component of the “Cut, Cap, and Balance” bill strongly suggests that, especially in the face of an approaching election, House Republicans looking for entitlement cuts would heavily target means-tested programs for people of lesser means (and less political power).

In short, the Boehner plan would force policymakers to choose among cutting the incomes and health benefits of ordinary retirees, repealing the guts of health reform and leaving an estimated 34 million more Americans uninsured, and savaging the safety net for the poor. It would do so even as it shielded all tax breaks, including the many lucrative tax breaks for the wealthiest and most powerful individuals and corporations.

President Obama has said that, while we must reduce looming deficits, we must take a balanced approach. The Boehner proposal badly fails this test of basic decency. The President should veto the bill if it reaches his desk. Congress should find a fairer, more decent way to avoid a default.

By: Robert Greenstein, President, Center on Budget and Policy Priorities, July 25, 2011

July 25, 2011 Posted by | Affordable Care Act, Budget, Class Warfare, Congress, Conservatives, Debt Ceiling, Debt Crisis, Deficits, Democracy, Democrats, Economic Recovery, Economy, Elections, GOP, Government Shut Down, Governors, Health Care, Ideologues, Ideology, Lawmakers, Medicaid, Medicare, Middle Class, Politics, President Obama, Public, Republicans, Right Wing, Tax Loopholes, Taxes, Teaparty, Uninsured, Voters, Wealthy | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

GOP Death Wish: Resume The Debt Debate In 2012?

So here’s the new Republican debt-ceiling idea:

Pass a $1 trillion increase in the debt ceiling joined to $1 trillion in spending cuts over the next 10 years, no revenues.

That sounds dramatic. But $1 trillion in spending cuts over a decade is not as big a deal as it sounds, especially if you are allowed to be vague about them. And a $1 trillion debt ceiling increase carries the United States government only into the early part of next year, meaning that this debate will recur in 2012.

House Republicans apparently regard the early renewal of the debt-ceiling debate as a feature, not a bug. It means that they can resume the debate over debt and deficits in the election season.

Except – I thought the 2012 election was supposed to be about the economy? Jobs and the Obama administration’s disappointing record of creating them?

Isn’t that the winning issue?

Why the eagerness to change the subject in 2012 to Republican plans to end the Medicare guarantee for those now under 55?

Isn’t that a big loser?

Republicans and Democrats alike assume that a 2012 debate over the debt ceiling hurts Democrat’s and helps Republican’s. Maybe. But I’d be careful about that assumption. If it means that we spend 2012 debating the Ryan plan all over again – only this time with the big general electorate watching – then the assumption may be wrong.

And if there’s one thing that could alienate younger voters who have begun to drift back to the GOP because of the jobs issue, isn’t a big debate over a Republican plan to end the Medicare guarantee for younger people a good approximation of that one thing? Why frame a national election around that?

By: David Frum, The Frum Forum, July 25, 2011

July 25, 2011 Posted by | Congress, Conservatives, Debt Ceiling, Debt Crisis, Deficits, Democracy, Democrats, Economic Recovery, Economy, Elections, GOP, Government, Government Shut Down, Ideologues, Ideology, Jobs, Lawmakers, Medicare, Politics, President Obama, Public, Republicans, Right Wing, Tax Loopholes, Taxes, Teaparty, Voters | , , | Leave a comment

Oh Really!: Gov Scott Walker Reports Net Gain Of 9,500 Jobs

Wisconsin added 9,500 jobs last month, in part because of a renewed focus on drawing tourists to the state, Gov.Scott Walker said Thursday.

The state added 12,900 jobs in the private sector but lost 3,400 government jobs in June, according to seasonally adjusted numbers released by the state Department of Workforce Development. The net gain of 9,500 jobs accounts for more than half the 18,000 net jobs created across the nation during the month.

The governor credited the state’s numbers to “a rebirth of tourism” following broad efforts to publicize Wisconsin’s state fairs, ethnic festivals and sporting events.

“Tourism is more than a $12 billion industry in the state of Wisconsin,” he told reporters in Milwaukee. “This is about putting people to work.”

He said he didn’t have details on which specific industries gained jobs. However, the Department of Workforce Development confirmed that almost half the private-sector growth was in the leisure and hospitality industry. There were 6,200 jobs created in that sector last month, and 3,300 more jobs than in June of last year.

A reporter asked whether the new jobs were seasonal and would be gone in several months. Walker replied that some were summer jobs but that an unspecified number would carry over into subsequent months.

“You certainly have a summer blitz when it comes to lakes and our other attractions, but you come back in the fall for hunting and you come back in the winter for snowmobiling and skiing,” he said.

When asked if the new jobs pay livable wages Walker said the job numbers released Thursday were sorted only by industry, not income. He added that his focus has always been to attract well-paying jobs.

Walker was joined at his news conference by Tourism Secretary Stephanie Klett. She said Walker’s budget increased the department’s funding by 20 percent, allocating an additional $2.5 million toward attracting visitors from other states.

“We ran a $3 million marketing campaign this summer,” she said, “and I think today with this announcement we are seeing the results in a big way.”

She said some of the new jobs were year-round positions at popular resorts.

Even though Wisconsin added nearly 10,000 jobs in June, the state’s unemployment rate actually nudged upward for the month to 7.6 percent, up 0.2 percentage points from the previous month. That’s because the job numbers and employment numbers come from two separate surveys, DWD spokesman John Dipko said in an email.

The jobs number comes from workplace data, while the unemployment rate is based on a survey of households, he said.

Unemployment figures encompass Wisconsin residents who are available for work and actively seeking jobs.

The state Democratic party said the preliminary job numbers look promising, but party chairman Mike Tate said it is important to know specifically what types of jobs were being created.

“Will these jobs support Wisconsin families or will they bolster the profits of corporations that benefit from the downward pressure on wages and benefits that comes at the hands of Scott Walker’s attack on collective bargaining?” he said in a statement.

The state’s unemployment rate has hovered around 7.4 percent for the first five months of the year. The state figure generally has been about 1.5 percentage points better than the national rate. That trend continued last month as the U.S. unemployment rate rose 0.1 percentage points to 9.2 percent.

 

By: Dinesh Ramde, Associated Press, July 22, 2o11

 

July 25, 2011 Posted by | Economy, Gov Scott Walker, Governors, Politics, Wisconsin | , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

No Limits To Hypocrisy: Boehner Claims To Be “Worried About The Country”

House Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio), as expected, is now fully invested in a temporary debt-ceiling extension. He’ll accept $1 trillion in cuts — with no revenue — now, and then consider another extension next year after additional negotiations over taxes and entitlements.

Democrats want one debt-ceiling vote, seeing no need to put the country through this twice in less than a year. Take note of how Boehner responds to this.

Boehner suggested Sunday that by trying to put the next debt ceiling debate off for so long Obama was trying to gain political advantage.

“I know the president is worried about his next re-election, but, my God, shouldn’t we be worried about the country?” Boehner asked.

It’s entirely possible that the House Speaker really is this dumb. With this in mind, I’m trying to think about how to ask the questions in a way John Boehner can understand. How about this:

1. How would the country benefit from two votes on raising the debt ceiling, instead of one?

2. If Republicans are sincerely concerned about economic “uncertainty,” why tell investors, job creators, and international markets that default is a possibility early next year?

3. If getting one debt-ceiling revision through Congress is necessary but difficult, why make lawmakers go through this twice?

Hearing John Boehner claim the high road, claiming to be “worried about the country,” might be the most hilarious thing I’ve seen in a while. We are, after all, talking about a House Speaker who allowed his caucus to launch an insane hostage strategy, threatening to crash the economy on purpose, and then refused to compromise, even after President Obama handed him an overly-generous offer.

“My God, shouldn’t we be worried about the country”? What a good question, John. Why don’t you answer it?

 

By: Steve Benen, Contributing Writer, Washington Monthly Political Animal, July 24, 2011

July 25, 2011 Posted by | Budget, Congress, Conservatives, Debt Ceiling, Debt Crisis, Deficits, Democrats, Economic Recovery, Economy, Elections, GOP, Government, Government Shut Down, Ideologues, Ideology, Lawmakers, Politics, Republicans, Right Wing, Tax Loopholes, Taxes, Teaparty, Voters | , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Tom Coburn’s Cuts: Military’s Tricare Prime Health Care Program Targeted

Sen. Tom Coburn (R-Okla.) wants to cut taxpayer funding for non-military elements of the Defense Department, starting with making retired, uninjured service members pay more for what he described as “extremely low-cost health care for life” for themselves, their wives and dependents under the Tricare Prime system.

For military retirees eligible for Medicare, he also wants to raise the co-payments that they are charged to be in Tricare for life, the second payer for health care after Medicare. In addition, he wants to increase low fees that Tricare beneficiaries pay for pharmaceuticals purchased at their local drugstores.

Former defense secretary Robert M. Gates proposed raising Tricare Prime enrollment fees for single retirees from $230 a year to $260 a year and fees for retiree families from $460 a year to $520 a year. Coburn wants the fees to be much higher and more in line with private-sector health plans.

Part of his concern is fairness, first for uninjured veterans who, for example, served in Iraq and/or Afghanistan but “leave the military without serving 20 years [and] are not entitled to any of these health-care benefits.” They represent some 70 percent of those serving, according to Pentagon officials.

Another comparison he makes is to other federal government workers whose plans are not as cheap. A medical doctor, Coburn told reporters last Monday: “Nobody in the country, as a single person working 20 years for the government, should be able to get health care for $250 a year. Nobody was ever promised that, and nobody should be able to do that.”

Instead, he wants to increase the enrollment fee for single retirees to “approximately $2,000 per year and $3,500 for a family.” At the same time he would limit out-of-pocket expenses at $7,500 for those retirees with families. He thinks these changes could save $11.5 billion a year.

His Tricare for life would require retirees to pay up to $550 for half the initial cost not covered by Medicare and then up to $3,025, after which all costs would be paid by Tricare. This change could save $4.3 billion a year.

Coburn wants to reduce the $8 billion annual government share of the cost of drugs that Tricare beneficiaries purchase from their local private retail pharmacies rather than buying them at lower cost by mail order or at military base facilities. Where the price is now $3 for a 30-day supply of a generic drug and $9 for a brand-name from private pharmacies, Coburn would raise that to$15 for generic and $25 for brand names and save some $2.6 billion a year.

Coburn told reporters he has no doubt about the reaction to his Tricare ideas.

“There’s no question,” he said, “. . . retired military, they won’t like what I’ve done. But the fact is is nobody’s going to like what we’ve done, because everybody gets a pinch — everybody. ”

Beyond health care, Coburn has several other proposals that will rattle the Pentagon. He wants to eliminate most of the $1.3 billion-a-year subsidy that supports the Defense Commissary system of 252 grocery stores on military bases worldwide. Prices at commissaries are much lower than at civilian supermarkets; they are listed at cost plus a 5 percent surcharge. That money goes to offset costs of new commissaries or to repair and maintain old ones. It does not pay for salaries and benefits of the roughly 18,000 people who work at the commissaries.

Coburn supports a Congressional Budget Office proposal that would reduce the taxpayer subsidy over five years and see a gradual raise in prices so commissaries could become self-sufficient. The increase in cost, according to the CBO, would amount to $400 per service family per year and save the government about $900 million annually.

He also wants to close down the Congressionally Directed Medical Research Program, which for more than 20 years has added around $200 million a year primarily for breast, lung and prostate cancer projects that have to be managed primarily by contractors. Coburn’s option is to “transfer funding for cancer research that affects the general population back to [the National Institutes of Health] and reduce the administrative costs of administering this research for savings.”

By: Walter Pincus, The Washington Post, July 24, 2011

July 25, 2011 Posted by | Conservatives, Deficits, Economic Recovery, Economy, Federal Budget, GOP, Health Care Costs, Lawmakers, Medicare, Pentagon, Politics, Republicans | , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

   

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